The Path to Health & Wellness

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The first half of my life I didn’t take very good care of myself. I abused, neglected and disrespected my body and mind. By the time I’d reached my early 30’s, I’d endured a series of bad relationships, had low self esteem and struggled with anxiety and depression, which plagued me since childhood. I was self medicating with drugs and drinking a bottle of wine a night. I lacked any ambition or purposeful feelings. I was numbly floating through life, wanting so much more, but not really sure what to do about it. 

My personal turning point was in 2013, at an Ashram in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Having reached my breaking point, I knew that what I currently was doing, was not making me a better person, and if I continued down that path, I would no-doubt kill myself, or harm someone else. I closed my eyes, and prayed for a sign to help me get out of my funk and unhealthy routines.  My heart spoke and that day I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. I had nothing else to lose.

During my 21 day training, through mindful meditation, yoga, healthful eating and the support of my wonderful teachers and fellow students, I began chipping away at the walls I had created around my heart and my life. I sat with my fears and anxieties, my insecurities and flaws, and learned to love and nurture myself, and to forgive and let go what was not contributing to a healthy lifestyle (mentally and physically). While there, we were provided only with “real food” – delicious and nutritious meals that were easy to digest and filled with the nutrients and vitamins our bodies crave. My mood lifted and my mind cleared. I left lighter and less anxious. More importantly, I wasn’t sluggish and irritable or depressed and numb.

At the completion of my training, it was like I was seeing the world through new eyes. Of all the lessons that journey taught me, the most powerful is that happiness is a verb. With every mindful thought, every nutritious bite, and through every positive action we take, we can secure that state of being for life.

Committing to this new way of life has brought me clarity and energy. Inspired by my experience at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat, I ramped up my fitness goals and became a certified Spinning instructor. Inspired by the way wholesome and nutritious foods made me feel mentally and physically, I became a chef for professional sailing teams; feeding athletes while strengthening my craft by incorporating cuisine from all over the world. I dove head first into all things health and wellness, ultimately enrolling in the Institute of Integrated Nutrition. Once I started to see and feel the amazing positive changes happening to me and around me, becoming a certified Health Coach came naturally. I want to share and bestow these healthy concepts and help those who struggle realize that a better way is within their reach. I want to help you empower you, all the ways to heal yourself, mind and body, and leave behind the fatigue and stress that tries to hold us down. I have been there and understand how stressful and overwhelming it can be and how bad habits feel impossible to break. But if I can do it, you can too, and I am here to show you the way.

Surviving The Winter Slog

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Winter in New England is without a doubt breathtakingly beautiful. Frosted windows, plenty of snow, one incredible sunrise after another. However with less daylight, and limited time to perform our favorite activities, these long months can also bring challenges in terms of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Whether you enjoy hiking Hanging Rock, running Cliff Walk, or walking your favorite beach, warmer months offer plenty of sunshine and time outside. Without enough movement during the Winter, our bodies can experience an increase in stress, and our immune systems can become suppressed. Without enough fresh air and exercise we become more susceptible to symptoms associated with the common cold and the flu. Overnight our joints can feel stiffer and in the morning we can feel achy and tight. And yes, without enough physical exercise our emotional well-being can certainly be affected. With these things in mind, hitting the snooze button and sleeping for a few more hours may seem like the best option to combat the colder months ahead of us.  But let’s keep the winter wind on our backs, and find some balance. Here are some ways to battle seasonal stress, and beat the stagnation that can sometimes come along with the Winter months.

Maintain a Schedule

Being proactive with your time is important in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Allowing a little extra room in the morning for 10 minutes of meditation or a simple stretching routine may be beneficial. Jocco Willink, author, podcaster and retired United States Navy SEAL says, “The temptation to take the easy road is always there. It is as easy as staying in bed in the morning and sleeping in. But discipline is paramount to ultimate success and victory for any leader and any team.” Try to stay clear from the snooze button so that you can keep consistency in your schedule. It is important to rest when you can, and maybe take some time to sit quietly everyday. A study was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience explaining how just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily can improve a person’s cognitive function. Figure out your requirements in order to live your best life-how much time do you need to feel fully awake in the morning? What daily activities can you perform consistently? Avoid taking on too much, set boundaries in terms of time and energy expelled on a day to day basis, stay involved but not so much you leave little to not time for yourself.

Eat Right  

Eating right all year round is essential. Specifically during the Winter it is important to eat a well-balanced diet to get all the essential vitamins and minerals your body is craving. Maybe start your morning with a bowl of Oats, which is a great option if you’re slacking on the fiber front. Add a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter to get some added protein. Try implementing turmeric and ginger into your diet to get all of their anti-inflammatory benefits. Remember, all year round, to drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation. Limit refined sugar and opt for something sweeter and more satisfying for the body, such as a handful of berries after dinner or a warm cup of cacao with hemp milk, cinnamon and turmeric. Both berries and cacao taste amazing and each are loaded with antioxidants, which can help to increase our body’s own immunity.

Remember Your Passion

It is so important to fight cabin fever with activities you love doing. Although hibernating when the temperature drops sounds rewarding, it is so important to keep spirits high by staying proactive with the things that make you smile. Maddie Bassinder, Licensed Massage Therapist and Aquidneck Island native, enjoys spending most of her time outdoors photographing sweet New England. Be sure to check out Maddie’s blog Winter Inspiration.

Blog by Sarah Shoen

Photo credit: Feature Image & Deer photographs are by Madeline Bassinder